Commonwealth Games Blog 3 – Emma Ludlow

An extremely early start on Sunday 29th June began for the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Team and Ireland’s European junior team as we headed to Oslo, Norway for a week long training camp with the Norwegian National Coach, Marcus Gustafsson, in charge.

With some of the Norwegian players returning from Estonia on Monday evening, official training began on Tuesday morning until Saturday afternoon, however we were invited for two sessions on Monday in Club Fokus with three of the girls who would also be training in the week long camp.  John Murphy took these sessions and we were able to start getting to know the Norwegian partners that we would be practicing with this week.

Bright and early Tuesday morning we travelled to Storøya Grendesenter (crèche and nursery school) where the basement is used permanently as a table tennis training hall.  There we met the thirteen Norwegian players, as well as Marcus, who had invited us to join their training.  Their squad consisted of seven cadet, three junior and three senior players.  With introductions done and a group photo taken, it was time for hard work.

We started with a lengthy warm-up using ladders and then dynamic stretches before being put into pairs for the session.  At a training camp the Norwegians will do physical at the end of almost every session and they weren’t letting us off easy for the first day.  After the morning session it was a core workout with 20 seconds press-ups, 30 seconds sit-up and 20 seconds back strengthening exercise and we did this three times.  For the physical at the end of the second session we had two flights of ten stairs in front of us.  Go up ten times.  Go down ten times.  Just a couple minutes rest and then do it again.  Tuesday and Wednesday consisted mainly of set exercises – it was great having new players to practise against and I feel this has benefitted me in the run up to both EYC and CG2014.

On Thursday morning we played top table.  No full sets were involved, we were told at the beginning of each what the score was and off we went.  For one, we had to play two sets with the server being 6-8 down.  This was to work on concentration and determination because I knew I had to fight to be able to come back and try to win the set that I was down in order to win the match.  Another exercise was best of three, 9-9.  I definitely couldn’t drop any concentration because with only two points and the set could be over, every shot mattered.

Friday morning and the whole session was match practice.  I played against three of the Norwegian girls and was disappointed to have lost my first two matches, but I fought hard and won my third match in the fifth set.  In the afternoon, after a hard session we finished with a team game of winner stays on, Norway against Ireland, first to 31.  After a dodgy start for Ireland and an extremely loud supporting Norwegian team, we got the lead, kept it and won 31-27.

Even on the last day of training it was hard practice right to the end!  I would like to thank the Norwegians for hosting us at this camp and I’m happy to say that I have made many friends that I hope to stay in contact with.

I found the experience of going to a training camp outside of the UK very beneficial – I have learnt new practice exercises, improved my fitness and am now ready for the most exciting summer ever.  Roll on Opening Ceremony, 23rd July 2014.

15 days to go